Page images
PDF
EPUB

Doth nourish all that groweth under him :
Cypresses, that like pyramids run topping,
And hurt the least of any by their dropping :
The alder, whose fat shadow nourisheth ;-
Each plant set near to him long flourisheth:
The heavy-headed plane-tree, by whose shade
The grass grows thickest, men are fresher made :
The oak that best endures the thunder-strokes :
The everlasting ebony, cedar, box:
The olive, that in wainscot never cleaves :
The amorous vine, which in the elm still weaves :
The lotus, juniper, where worms ne'er enter:
The pine, with whom men through the ocean venture :
The warlike yew, by which, more than the lance,
The strong-armed English spirits conquered France.
Amongst the rest the tamarisk there stood,
For housewives' besoms only known most good:
The cold-place-loving birch and service tree;
The walnut loving vales, and mulberry;
The maple, ash, that do delight in fountains
Which have their currents by the sides of mountains ;
The laurel, myrtle, ivy, date, which hold
Their leaves all winter, be it ne'er so cold ;
The fir, that often-times doth rosin drop;
The beech, that scales the welkin with his top.
All these, and thousand more, within this grove,
By all the industry of nature, strove
To frame an arbour, that might keep within it
The best of beauties that the world hath in it.

PROSE WRITERS. — CHARLES I.

Most of the prose that was written and published in England in the middle portion of the seventeenth century, or the twenty years preceding the Restoration, was political and theological, but very little of it has any claim to be considered as belonging to the national literature. A torrent of pamphlets and ephemeral*polemics supplied the ravenous public appetite with a mental sustenance which answered the wants of the moment, much as the bakers'

ovens did with daily bread for the body. It was all devoured, and meant to be devoured, as fast as it was produced, — devoured in the sense of being quite used up and consumed, so far as any good was to be got out of it. It was in no respect intended for posterity, any more than the linen and broadcloth then manufactured were intended for posterity. Still even this busy and excited time produced some literary performances which still retain more or less of interest.

The writings attributed to Charles I. were first collected and published at the Hague soon after his death, in a folio volume without date, under the title of Reliquiæ Sacræ Carolinæ, and twice afterwards in England, namely, in 1660 and 1687, with the title of BAXIAIKA: The Works of King Charles the Martyr. If we except a number of speeches to the parliament, letters, despatches, and other political papers, the contents of this collection are all theological, consisting of prayers, arguments, and disquisitions on the controversy about church government, and the famous Eikon Basiliké, or, The Portraiture of his Sacred Majesty in his Solitude and Sufferings; which, having been printed under the care of Dr. Gauden (after the Restoration successively bishop of Exeter and Worcester), had been first published by itself immediately after the king's execution. It is now generally admitted that the Eikon was really written by Gauden, who, after the Restoration, openly claimed it as his own. Mr. Hallam, however, although he has no doubt of Gauden being the author, admits that it is, nevertheless, superior to his acknowledged writings. " A strain of majestic melancholy,” he observes, “is well kept up; but the personated sovereign is rather too theatrical for real nature ; the language is too rhetorical and amplified, the periods too artificially elaborated. None but scholars and practised writers employ such a style as

It is not improbable that the work may have been submitted to Charles's revisal, and that it may have received both his approval and his corrections. Charles, indeed, was more in the habit of correcting what had been written by others than of writing anything himself.

• Though he was of as slow a pen as of speech,' says Sir Philip Warwick, “yet both were very significant; and he had that modest esteem of his own parts, that he would usually say, he would willingly make his own despatches, but that he found it better to be a cobbler than a shoemaker. I have been in com

this.” 1

66

1 Lit. of Eur. ii. 376.

pany with very learned men, when I have brought them their own papers back from him with his alterations, who ever confessed his amendments to have been very material. And I once, by his commandment, brought him a paper of my own to read, to see whether it was suitable to his directions, and he disallowed it slightingly: I desired him I might call Dr. Sanderson to aid me, and that the doctor might understand his own meaning from himself; and, with his majesty's leave, I brought him whilst he was walking and taking the air ; whereupon we two went back; but pleased him as little when we returned it: for, smilingly, he said, a man might have as good ware out of a chandler's shop; but afterwards he set it down with his own pen very plainly, and suitably to his own intentions.” The most important of the literary productions which are admitted to be wholly Charles's own, are his papers in the controversy which he carried on at Newcastle in June and July, 1646, with Alexander Henderson, the Scotch clergyman, on the question between episcopacy and presbytery, and those on the same subject in his controversy with the parliamentary divines at Newport in October, 1648. These papers show considerable clearness of thinking and logical or argumentative talent; but it cannot be said that they are written with any force or elegance. It is not easy to understand the meaning of Horace Walpole's judgment on Charles's style, that “it was formed between a certain portion of sense, adversity, dignity, and perhaps a little insincerity.' What he says of a copy

a copy of verses said to have been written by his majesty during his confinement in Carisbrook Castle is more to the purpose : “ The poetry is most uncouth and inharmonious ; but there are strong thoughts in it, some good sense, and a strain of majestic piety.” Though not very polished, indeed, or very like the production of a practised versifier, which goes so far to furnish a presumption of its authenticity, this composition, which is entitled Majesty in Misery, or an Imploration to the King of Kings, indicates poetic feeling, and an evident familiarity with the highest models. Here are a few of its more striking verses :

"1

Nature and law, by thy divine decree
The only sort of righteous royalty,
With this dim diadem invested me.

1 Royal and Noble Authors.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The Presbyter and Independent seed
Springs with broad blades ; to make religion bleed
Herod and Pontius Pilate are agreed.
The corner-stone's misplaced by every paviour ;
With such a bloody method and behaviour
Their ancestors did crucify our Saviour.

With my own power my majesty they wound;
In the king's name the king himself 's uncrowned ;
So doth the dust destroy the diamond.

MILTON'S PROSE WORKS.

We have already mentioned Bishop Hall, both as a poet and as a writer of

prose. A part which Hall took in his old age in the grand controversy of the time brought him into collision with orie with whose name in after-ages the world was to resound. John Milton, then in his thirty-third year, and recently returned from his travels in France and Italy, had already, in 1641, lent the aid of his

pen to the war of the Puritans against the established church by the publication of his treatise entitled Of Reformation, in Two Books. The same year Hall published his Humble Remonstrance in favor of Episcopacy; which immediately called forth an Answer by Smectymnuus, - a word formed from the initial letters of the names of five Puritan ministers by whom the tract was written

- Stephen Marshall, Edmund Calamy, Thomas Young, Matthew Newcomen, and William (or, as he was on this occasion reduced to designate himself, Uuilliam) Spurstow. The Answer produced a Confutation by Archbishop Usher; and to this Milton replied in a treatise entitled Of Prelatical Episcopacy. Hall then published

a Defence of the Humble Remonstrance; and Milton wrote Animadversions upon that.

that. About the same time he also brought out a performance of much greater pretension, under the title of The Reason of Church Government urged against Prelaty, in Two Books. This is the work containing the magnificent passage in which he makes the announcement of his intention to attempt something in one of the highest kinds of poetry “in the mothertongue,” long afterwards accomplished in his great epic. Meanwhile a Confutation of the Animadversions having been published by Bishop Hall, or his son, Milton replied, in 1642, in an Apology for Smectymnuus, which was the last of his publications in this particular controversy. But, nearly all his other prose writings were given to the world within the period with which we are now engaged : — namely, his Tractate of Education, addressed to his friend Hartlib, and his noble Areopagitica, a Speech for the Liberty of Unlicensed Printing, in 1644 ; his Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, and his Judgment of Martin Bucer concerning Divorce, the same year ; his Tetrachordon, and Colasterion (both on the same subject) in 1645; his Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, his Eikonoclastes, in answer to the Eikon Basiliké, and one or two other tracts of more temporary interest, all after the execution of the king, in 1649; his Defence for the People of England, in answer to Salmasius (in Latin), in 1651 ; his Second Defence (also in Latin), in reply to a work by Peter du Moulin, in 1654 ; two additional Latin tracts in reply to rejoinders of Du Moulin, in

his treatises on Civil Power in Ecclesiastical Cases, and on The Means of Removing Hirelings out of the Church, in 1659; his Letter concerning the Ruptures of the Commonwealth, and Brief Delineation of a Free Commonwealth, the same year; and, finally, his Ready and Easy Way to establish a Free Commonwealth, and his Brief Notes upon a Sermon preached by Dr. Griffith, called The Fear of God and the King, in the spring of 1660, immediately before the king's return. Passages of great poetic splendor occur in some of these productions, and a fervid and fiery spirit breathes in all of them, though the animation is as apt to take the tone of mere coarse objurgation and abuse as of lofty and dignified scorn or of vigorous argument; but, upon the whole, it cannot be said that Milton's English prose is a good style. It is in the first place, not perhaps in vocabulary, but certainly in genius and construction, the most Latinized of English styles ; but it does

1655;

« PreviousContinue »